10 things you need to know today: March 20, 2022
Study concludes Ukraine has 'defeated the initial Russian campaign,' Biden admin considered sending out gas cards to ease pain at the pump, and more
Ukraine has 'defeated the initial Russian campaign,' study concludes
The D.C.-based Institute for the Study of War concluded that "Ukrainian forces have defeated the initial Russian campaign of this war," in an assessment published Saturday. "The doctrinally sound Russian response," the assessment concludes, would be for Russian forces to pause and regroup instead of "continuing to feed small collections of reinforcements into an ongoing effort to keep the current campaign alive." United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made similar comments in Bulgaria on Saturday. "I think [Russia] envisioned that they would move rapidly and very quickly seize the capital city. They've not been able to do that," he said.
Biden admin considered sending out gas cards to ease pain at the pump
Last week, the Biden administration considered sending pre-paid gas cards to Americans to help ease pain at the pump, according to a report published Saturday. A House Democratic counsel reportedly talked the White House out of the idea by arguing that gas cards would be expensive, poorly targeted, ineffective, and difficult for the understaffed IRS to handle during tax season. White House spokesperson Vedant Patel said Saturday that gas cards are "not an administratively feasible solution" and are "not seriously under consideration." The administration has also considered stimulus checks, federal rebates, increased ethanol usage, suspension of the federal gas tax, and measures that would put pressure on oil companies.
Zelensky nationalizes TV news and restricts opposition parties
On Saturday and Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invoked his emergency powers to suppress several Ukrainian political parties and implement a "unified information policy." In a speech delivered Sunday, he announced a temporary ban on "any activity" by 11 political parties. The ban includes Opposition Platform – For Life, which holds 43 seats in Ukraine's national parliament and is the country's largest opposition party. Zelensky's information policy involves "combining all national TV channels, the program content of which consists mainly of information and/or information-analytical programs, [into] a single information platform of strategic communication."
Republicans slam Big Tech 'censors' after NYT declares Hunter Biden laptop emails 'authenticated'
Several Republican lawmakers criticized Big Tech after a New York Times report published last week said emails recovered from a laptop Hunter Biden abandoned at a repair shop in Delaware have been "authenticated." In Sept. 2020, The New York Post published the contents of that laptop, which purportedly showed that Hunter Biden and his father, then-candidate Joe Biden, had engaged in corrupt activities. Due to questions about the laptop's provenance, social media sites suppressed the story. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) said Saturday that Congress must "rein in Big Tech censors," while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said "Big Tech leaders who participated in censoring the truth should answer to Congress and the American people."
Mariupol official claims thousands of Ukrainians have been forcibly taken to Russia
Pyotr Andryuschenko, an assistant to the mayor of the Russian-encircled Ukrainian city of Mariupol, said Saturday that "between 4,000 and 4,500" of the city's inhabitants have been taken "forcibly across the border to [the Russian city of] Taganrog." Andryuschenko also said he fears those taken to Russia could be compelled to do forced labor. Russian news outlets say buses have transported several hundred people from Mariupol to Russia in recent days, but claim those people were refugees, not captives. On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described Russia's bombardment of Mariupol as a war crime and "a terror that will be remembered for centuries to come."
Boris Johnson criticized for comparing Brexit vote to war in Ukraine
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism from European politicians and his rivals at home after comparing the U.K.'s 2016 Brexit vote to the war in Ukraine in a speech Saturday. "[I]t's the instinct of the people of this country, like the people of Ukraine, to choose freedom, every time," he said. "When the British people voted for Brexit in such large, large numbers ... It's because they wanted to be free to do things differently and for this country to be able to run itself." Former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt called the comparison "insane," while Ed Davey — who leads the U.K.'s Liberal Democrats — called it an "insult" to Ukraine.
Sanctions against Russia 'are getting more and more outrageous,' Chinese official says
Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng on Saturday denounced the sanctions many countries have imposed on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine. "The sanctions against Russia are getting more and more outrageous ... History has proven time and again that sanctions cannot solve problems. Sanctions will only harm ordinary people," Le said at a Beijing security forum. He also said the overseas assets of Russian citizens are being seized "for no reason" and that NATO's expansion into Eastern Europe had backed Russia "into a corner." The Biden administration has repeatedly warned China against aiding Russia in its war against Ukraine.
Missouri considers Texas-style law to stop out-of-state abortions
Missouri's state legislature is considering a proposal that would empower private citizens to sue anyone who helps a Missouri woman obtain an abortion, even if the abortion takes place in another state, according to a report published Saturday. "If a Missouri resident is hurt, even in Illinois, by a product that they bought in Illinois, there is still jurisdiction for them to sue in a Missouri court because that's home for them ... this is extending that same kind of thought to abortion jurisprudence," said state Rep. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, who is pushing the policy in the form of amendments to health bills.
Permanent Daylight Saving Time bill could stall in the House
Thanks to the House of Representatives, Americans might be springing forward and falling back for the foreseeable future. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D.-N.J.), who oversees time change policies as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in comments published Saturday that it "could be weeks" or "months" before top House Democrats bring a bill that would make Daylight Saving Time permanent before the full chamber for a vote. The bill unanimously passed the Senate on Tuesday. 18 states have already made Daylight Saving Time permanent, while Arizona and Hawaii remain on standard time the whole year.
Grammys drop Kanye West from performance lineup
Kanye West has been dropped from the performance lineup for the upcoming Grammy Awards due to his "concerning online behavior," the Yeezus rapper's rep confirmed Saturday. This news hit just as West came off of a 24-hour suspension from Instagram earlier this week. The Meta-owned app suspended West's account after he directed a racial slur at Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who said Ye's behavior toward his estranged wife, Kim Kardashian, "shines a spotlight on what so many women go through when they choose to leave." The Grammys are set to air on April 3. West has been nominated for several awards.